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A Look Back At Hopkins-Kovalev

Thomas Hauser

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Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City touching the Atlantic Ocean. Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev, November 8, 2014. Given the dominant role that Hopkins’s age played in the promotion, one might have thought of the event as “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Hopkins’s accomplishments are different from those of any fighter who has come before him. His hairline has receded. There’s a lot of gray in his beard. Two months shy of his fiftieth birthday, he still moves like an elite athlete in and out of the ring. No fighter has performed as well at such at advanced age.

Hopkins is passionate about Hopkins and one of the best self-promoters in boxing. During an October 21 media conference call, he declared, “I just want to make sure that, when there is debate about Bernard Hopkins’s legacy, people will be up all hours of the night debating arguments on trying to figure out where we put this. Or do we start this new label with Bernard at the top and anybody else that comes after that underneath. To me, the best fighter ever is Sugar Ray Robinson. The best fighter after that is Muhammad Ali. Then the debate starts.”

If one is ranking fighters on the basis of how they performed in their mid-to-late forties, Hopkins is on the short list above George Foreman and Archie Moore. He’s a master of psychological warfare. “Psychological warfare, you will never win against me,” Bernard says. But he’s quick to add, “I don’t look at my victories as getting in somebody’s head. I look at it as being the better fighter, better plan, better preparation, and I took care of my business.”

Taking care of business results from superb genetic gifts (“God-given physical ability”), dedicated preparation (“I’ve never gotten bored with boxing”), a great boxing mind (“No one studies his opponent and understands his opponent more than I do”), and an understanding of one’s limitations (“Everybody has weakness; even I. There is no perfect fighter, and there will never be”).

Also, while Hopkins fights by the rules, the only rule for a prizefight in his world is that there are no rules unless the referee enforces them. In that regard, he has been known to push the envelope.

“In most of Bernard’s fights,” Paulie Malignaggi notes, “Bernard ends up being the referee.”

Not everyone appreciates Hopkins’s style of fighting, which involves shutting down an opponent’s offense through tactics that are aesthetically unpleasing to many fans. Jimmy Tobin expressed that dissatisfaction, writing, “Hopkins’s fights have become a chore to watch, though saying as much is liable to have you branded a simpleton for failing to appreciate the nuance of noogies.”

Meanwhile, Hopkins has compensated for the perceived lack of action in his fights by marketing himself as “The Executioner” . . . “B-Hop” . . . and most recently . . . “The Alien.” Perhaps in his next incarnation, he’ll call himself “The Easter Bunny.”

The evaluation and marketing of Hopkins always comes back to his age. “This doesn’t happen the way it’s happening for me at this particular time in my life,” he said recently. “Just enjoy it, understand it, and realize that you might not be alive to see it again.”

The other side of the coin is the nagging question of what Bernard’s success says about the current state of boxing.

“What if Michael Jordan came back tomorrow,” Bart Barry wrote, “and won an NBA championship? It would be a massive event, an orgy of media celebration, as one of the world’s most famous athletes returned to a field of glory and dominated at an age that was absurd. But once the orgy got tired and broke up, what would it say about professional basketball that a man in his sixth decade [Jordan is 51] was able to dominate the best professionals in their twenties? Were Michael Jordan still able to ply his craftsmanship and win titles outclassing LeBron James and friends in championship games, the NBA would know there was something dreadfully wrong with its product.”

Friend and foe alike realize that there’s something dreadfully wrong now with boxing. The best rarely fight the best. Boxers sometimes win “world championships” without championship skills and without ever having fought a world-class fighter.

Thus, on the plus side of the ledger for Bernard, Barry continues, “Hopkins is an embarrassment for most of his prizefighting countrymen, showing at age 49 a willingness to fail that few of today’s best American fighters have shown since their bouts got computer-matched in the amateurs. The fight that best represents our sport in 2014 is one in which a man nearing his fiftieth birthday is challenging and imperiling himself more than any of our standard bearers in their primes.”

The man Hopkins chose to fight to solidify his legacy was Sergey Kovalev.

Kovalev came out of the Russian amateur boxing system. It has been said that he had a working relationship with some of the less savory elements in Russian society at an earlier time in his life. Of course, Hopkins wasn’t a choirboy when he was young either.

At the start of his pro career, Kovalev relocated to the United States under the guidance of manager Egis Klimas. He now lives in Florida with his wife and newly-born son. His English is rapidly improving but is constricted by a limited vocabulary.

Sergey enjoys basic pleasures. “I like nice cars,” he says. “I like to travel. I like action. Fishing is too slow for me; too much waiting. I love to drive fast, but I don’t love speeding tickets for driving too fast. Friendship is important to me. I love my family. I miss my family and friends who are still in Russia.”

He loves animals. In 2011, Kovalev adopted a three-month old Yorkshire terrier named Picasso. One year later, Picasso jumped out of a moving car and was killed on the road. Sergey still carries a photo of himself with Picasso on his smart phone.

Kovalev has a direct matter-of-fact approach to boxing. Answering a question on a media conference call, he acknowledged the possibility that he could lose to Hopkins. When pressed by a reporter who followed up with, “Are you not one hundred percent certain that you’re going to beat Hopkins?” Sergey answered, “This is boxing. I can repeat for you, special for you, this is boxing and everything in boxing can happen. This is not swimming. This is not cycling. This is not running. This is boxing.”

In private, Kovalev was more expansive, saying, “The fans, the media; they don’t know what it is to be a fighter because they have never been punched in the face by a fighter. I feel fear. I am not a target. I don’t like to get hit. In boxing, any punch from your opponent can be the last for you. It is very dangerous. I knew Magomed Abdusalamov from the national team in Russia. He was a friend; not my best friend, but a friend. I don’t ever want to be like he is today. “

Atlantic City has fallen on hard times in recent years. Gambling revenue has dropped by roughly fifty percent since peaking at $5.2 billion in 2006. Trump Plaza, Revel, and Showboat closed their doors in 2014. Trump Taj Mahal might follow suit in the near future.

Still, there was a nice buzz for Hopkins-Kovalev with Bernard carrying much of the promotional load.

“I am fighter,” Kovalev had said at the kick-off press conference in New York. “My English is poor. But I am sure that Bernard will talk enough to promote the fight for both of us.” Thereafter, Sergey informed the media, “Bernard talks and fights. I just fight. Say and do are two different things.” Kovalev also indicated that, given his limited English, he understood only about ten percent of what Hopkins said.

“None of Bernard’s talk will bother Sergey,” Don Turner (Kovalev’s first trainer in the United States and now a fight-week assistant to trainer John David Jackson) said. “If I had a fighter and talk was bothering him, I’d tell my fighter to find another job.”

One thing that did bother Team Kovalev though, was Hopkins’s penchant for skirting the rules, conning referees, and fouling during fights.

“He can cut you from the head, from the elbow, from any part of his body,” Sergey noted. “I hope and I wish that this fight will be very clean and fair. But any way I need to get a victory, dirty fight or clean fight, for me it doesn’t matter. I am going to fight a clean fight, but I will fight dirty if Hopkins will fight dirty.”

“Sergey says he wants a fair fight,” Hopkins responded at the final pre-fight press conference. “You’re the Krusher. Make your own fair fight.”

The oddsmakers thought that Kovalev would do just that; a belief based in large measure on his high knockout percentage. Hopkins acknowledged his adversary’s power, saying, “I have the same thoughts on Kovalev that most people do. He’s a dangerous puncher. He has a ninety percent knockout rate. If he can punch like everyone says he can punch, there might not be a second chance.”

Still, Bernard voiced confidence in the outcome of the fight, declaring, “Kovalev only had to be one-dimensional because the guys he fought he knocked out. But now you’re stepping up to a different level. You’re stepping up to the professor, the teacher. You’re stepping up into a different neighborhood. The other neighborhoods, you understood. But this neighborhood is kind of strange.”

One day before the fight, Oscar De La Hoya (now Hopkins’s promoter) offered his thoughts on the upcoming bout. “I fought Pernell Whitaker,” Oscar said. “I fought Mayweather. I could hit them. But not one punch I threw against Hopkins landed the way I wanted it to land.”

“This is one of those fights where the energy level before is crazy and everyone is saying either guy can win,” Naazim Richardson (Hopkins’s trainer) added. “And when it’s over, people will be sitting around saying, ‘Is that all Kovalev has?’”

“Kovalev has a good amateur background,” Richardson continued. “He knows how to box. He’s not just a puncher. But Kovalev has never been past eight rounds, and now he’s fighting the master of twelve. How does Kovalev handle that? What happens if Kovalev can’t hit Bernard the way he wants? What happens if Kovalev hits Bernard with his best shot and nothing happens? Kovalev punches hard. We know that. His power is real. But so was Tarver’s power and Pavlik’s power. And Tarver and Pavlik had knockouts over legitimate champions. Kovalev doesn’t have that.”

“I need to do what I do and do it very well,” Kovalev said of his date with Hopkins.

“The sweet science is not based on only one thing you can do particularly well,” Bernard countered.

Main Events and Golden Boy (which co-promoted the fight) had hoped for a crowd of ten thousand. The announced attendance of 8,545 fell short of that goal. There was a horrible two-hour stretch in the middle of the card that consisted of 114 minutes of waiting and six minutes of boxing. But anticipation ran high when Hopkins and Kovalev entered the ring.

Kovalev made his presence forcefully known two minutes into the bout when he maneuvered Hopkins into a corner and dropped him with a short straight right as Bernard was sliding out to his left. It was a flash knockdown. A clubbing right hand that landed high on Hopkins’s head later in the stanza probably did more damage. But Sergey knew now that he had a working game plan.

Thereafter, Kovalev fought a patient measured fight, controlling the distance between the fighters in a way that Hopkins was always under pressure yet unable to hold and maul. It wasn’t a fast pace. It never is for Hopkins, which usually benefits the older man. But here, the pace meant that Sergey (who had gone eight rounds only once in his career and fought a full three rounds only five times) was less likely to drown in the deep water of the late rounds.

A fighter’s game plan sometimes changes as a fight goes on. Kovalev’s didn’t. Unlike most Hopkins opponents, he was able to contest the battle on his own terms. He was faster that Hopkins had thought he’d be. Or maybe Bernard was slower. One way to beat Kovalev is to get off first, hit him just hard enough to keep him off balance, and force Sergey to reset. Hopkins knew that. But at age 49, he couldn’t do it.

Kovalev jabbed effectively to the body throughout the bout and landed some good chopping right hands up top. John David Jackson said afterward that he would have liked his charge to have thrown more body punches during exchanges on the inside. That said; Sergey did damage with the body shots that he threw and also with blows to the biceps and shoulder.

There were rounds when Hopkins set traps in the hope the Kovalev would blunder into one of them, and other times when survival seemed uppermost in his mind. “When Bernard got hurt,” Jackson noted, “he’d go into his shell, gather himself together for a few rounds, then try another attack.”

There was drama in the fight in large measure because one of the combatants was Bernard Hopkins.

Then, in round twelve, the drama escalated. Everyone in the arena (including Hopkins) knew that Bernard needed his first knockout in ten years to win. He went for it. And got rocked in return. That led to some big exchanges and ended with Kovalev battering Hopkins around the ring while Bernard struggled courageously to stay on his feet until the final bell.

One could make an argument for giving round seven to Hopkins. Kovalev didn’t do much in that stanza, and Bernard snapped Sergey’s head back with two good right hands. Other than that, it was all Kovalev. The judges’ scores were 120-107, 120-107, and 120-106. Kovalev outlanded Hopkins by a 166-to-65 margin. Bernard averaged a meager five punches landed per round.

After the fight, Hopkins handled his defeat with dignity and grace.

“Sergey is the real deal,” he acknowledged at the post-fight press conference. “I felt like a middleweight in there with a cruiserweight . . . I had some success here and there, but I never got him off his game . . . He was the better man tonight.”

There was also a bit of humor when a questioner asked if Hopkins would fight again.

“Asking me about fighting again now is like asking a woman who’s just out of nine hours labor about having another baby,” Bernard responded.

Three days later, Hopkins told Fox Sports that he planned on having at least one more fight, most likely at 168 pounds. That would take him past age fifty in the ring.

Kovalev has a bright future ahead of him. Prior to fighting Hopkins, Sergey had declared, “I want to get some lessons from the professor of boxing. I want to get some experience from this fight that can make me better for another fight.”

He achieved that goal and got the win. He’s an exciting action fighter and the best light-heavyweight in the world. But before one gets too carried away with superlatives, let’s not forget that the man Kovalev just beat is 49 years old. A remarkable 49-year-old, but 49 just the same.

In recent years, Hopkins has alluded to retirement. “When I leave, you all are going to miss me,” he told the media at a press conference last year. “Where else are you going to get these sound bites?” Then, on a more pensive note, Bernard added, “Boxing is always going to be here. That’s just the way it is. Boxing will be here way after me and everyone else in it now is gone.”

It’s impossible to know with certainty what Hopkins will do next. He likes to steer his own ship and will continue to confound. When he joined Golden Boy in 2004, one would have been hard-pressed to find an observer who thought that his tenure with the company would outlast Richard Schaefer’s. But here we are in 2014 and that eventuality has come to pass.

Prior to Hopkins-Kovalev, there was a lot of talk about Hopkins “punking out” if things went against him inside the ring. If Sergey was dominating, if Sergey was landing heavy blows, Bernard would fake an injury or instigate a disqualification rather than go out on his shield.

That didn’t happen. In round twelve, Hopkins was in extremis, unable to fully control his mind and body, facing the onslaught of a devastating puncher. In those perilous moments, Bernard didn’t look for a way out. He put everything on the line and fought with remarkable courage and heart; the courage and heart of a champion.

If round twelve of Hopkins-Kovalev turns out to have been the final round of the remarkable ring career of Bernard Hopkins, it would be a good round on which to end.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens) has just been published by Counterpoint.

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There Was a Smorgasbord of Tasty Delights in Dueling TV Fight Cards

Bernard Fernandez

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Technology has not advanced to the point where someone can actually be in two places at the same time, but until that happens, the next best thing is the wonderful consolation prize of being able to watch one fight card live on television while recording the other for delayed perusal.

Maybe there can be too much of a good thing sometimes. If I were in a position where I had to make a choice to physically be in attendance at one site or another on Saturday night, it would have been difficult choosing between being there to witness Philadelphia’s emerging welterweight sensation, Jaron “Boots” Ennis, put on another spectacular show in dispatching former junior welter world champion Sergey Lipinets in the Showtime-televised main event in Uncasville, Conn., or another gritty performance by blue-collar, working-class hero Joe Smith Jr. as he finally won a world light heavyweight title with a hard-fought, typically inelegant and somewhat controversial majority decision over Russia’s Maxim Vlasov in the ESPN/ESPN+ card-topper at the Osage Casino in Tulsa, Okla.

In and of themselves, the two featured bouts, so different in execution and outcome but each compelling in their own way, would have satisfied most fight fans. But like a buffet line where diners can snack on tasty hors d’oeuvres –type fare before loading their plates with a preferred entrée item, each card offered additional value by way of televised undercard bouts.

The most dominant performance, and the one of highest potential value moving forward? That would be still another star-making turn by the 23-year-old Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs), who did pretty much whatever he wanted in becoming the first fighter to knock out Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs), the 32-year-old former IBF junior welterweight titlist who had gone the distance with Mikey Garcia and had never been decked as a professional until he went down twice against Boots, who looks like he has the goods to soon take his place in the pantheon of outstanding fighters to represent the city of his birth.

OK, so the first ruled knockdown by referee Arthur Mercante Jr., which came in the fourth round, likely was an error of judgment as replays showed that Lipinets actually tripped on Ennis’ foot. But there was no mistaking what happened in the sixth round, when Ennis, who had been casually teeing off on the stocky Russian as if he were just another heavy bag to be pounded on in the gym, caught Lipinets with a right hook followed by a left uppercut. Lipinets went down flat onto his back, and Mercante immediately waved the massacre off, dispensing with the formality of initiating a count.

The ending meant that Ennis still had not been extended beyond the sixth round as a pro, but this relatively swift termination of a bout whose outcome seemed predetermined from the outset was more significant given Lipinets’ reputation as a tough, durable former champ who had never been so outclassed in matchups with other top-shelf performers. If Ennis hadn’t already stamped himself as a force to be reckoned with in the 147-pound weight class, his domination of Lipinets sent that message out loud and clear.

“Another special fighter from Philadelphia. Imagine that,” said Showtime blow-by-blow announcer Mauro Ranallo.

“More Boots Ennis,” studio host Brian Custer said when asked what he wanted next. “This kid is spectacular. Say his name. Jaron `Boots’ Ennis is going to be a problem in the welterweight division.”

What wasn’t there to like? Ennis has a smorgasbord of ring skills that would be difficult for even other elite 147-pounders to solve. He switches from orthodox to southpaw as fluidly and effectively as does arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Terence “Bud” Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs), the WBO welterweight ruler. He occasionally employed the shoulder roll that was a staple of the great Floyd Mayweather Jr., and his penchant for finishing off his man when he has him in trouble pretty much is beyond dispute at this stage of a career whose best days might yet come.

According to CompuBox statistics, Ennis landed a ridiculously high percentage of his power shots (91 of 172, 52.9%), going to the body frequently as part of a well-thought-out strategy crafted by his father-trainer, Derrick “Bozy” Ennis. His next fight may well be against the formidable Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), a Miami-based Cuban, but by now it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to imagine him giving the welterweight division’s crème de la crème, Crawford and WBC/IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21 KOs) all they could handle. Perhaps Ennis would benefit from a bit more seasoning against higher-tier opponents, but if his time isn’t exactly right now, that time is fast approaching.

“I was just in there, having fun, doing me,” Ennis said of his unhurried but quite thorough thrashing of Lipinets. “You know, being real relaxed and putting on a show … I just coasted, I took my time and I broke him down.”

Joe Smith Jr. MD12 Maxim Vlasov

The backstory of Joe Smith Jr. – a card-carrying member of Local 66 from Long Island, N.Y., who spends his days pouring concrete, digging trenches, laying sheetrock, power-washing septic tanks and knocking down walls with a sledgehammer, and his nights training as a light heavyweight contender with a dream of making it all the way to a world title – always have been a bit more intriguing than what his limited skill-set has been able to produce inside the ropes.

This 31-year-old Everyman with a most common name is tough, determined and a dangerous puncher, but all that will carry him only so far now that he finally has that bejeweled belt (as winner of the vacant WBO 175-pound championship) he so long has coveted, by virtue of his hardly clear-cut majority decision over the unorthodox Russian Maxim Vlasov. Seemingly behind through 10 rounds, a bloodied and perhaps desperate Smith reached deep inside himself to win the last two rounds, drawing even on my unofficial, watching-at-home scorecard at six rounds apiece. He fared better with the judges in Tulsa, however, with David Sutherland joining me in seeing the fight as a 114-114 standoff, a determination overruled by the cards submitted by Gerald Ritter (115-112) and Pat Russell (115-113).

Presumably next up for Smith is a unification showdown with WBC/IBF ruler Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs), the Canada-based Russian who is an even bigger puncher than Smith and is widely regarded as the best light heavyweight on the planet. Such a bout likely would mean a career-high payday for the newly wed Smith, but just as likely the end of his brief reign as an alphabet titlist.

“I want other belts,” Smith, who fought from the first round on with a worrisome cut above his left eye. “I want the big fights out there. I believe I’m going to start unifying belts.”

Finally the favorite – Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) had made his reputation on his inside-the-distance upsets of Andrzej Fonfara and nearly 52-year-old Bernard Hopkins – the easy-to-like Everyman’s coronation proved to be no easy task as Vlasov (45-4, 26 KOs) confused him in the early going with an unorthodox style that had him delivering punches from odd angles.

But Smith is difficult to discourage, and he kept pressing his attack in the hope he could find an opening to deliver the kind of put-away shot that had vanquished Fonfara and B-Hop. He got in some wicked licks, too, several times hurting Vlasov, who bled from the mouth from the seventh round on.

The 11th round was perhaps pivotal, as Vlasov went down, clearly from a punch. But referee Gary Ritter ruled that the delivered blow was an illegal rabbit punch, and he waved off the knockdown and gave Vlasov additional time to recover.

“I believe that round where I hurt him, he stuck his head down (and into the disputed punch),” Smith said. “I should have got the knockdown on that. I think I would have got the stoppage that round, but he pulled it off and made it out on his feet.”

It also could have been that, not getting credit for the knockdown, which conceivably might have opened the door to a knockout or a TKO, made Smith – who originally was to have fought Vlasov on Feb. 13, a date postponed when the Russian tested positive for COVID-19 – fight even harder the rest of the way. CompuBox listed him as landing a career-high 174 power shots, 68 coming in the last two rounds that he so clearly needed.

Whatever viewers might have thought of the decision, Smith-Vlasov was entertaining and competitive.

Efe Ajagba KO3 Brian Howard

Ajagba, a 26-year-old Nigerian, delivered one of the most emphatic one-punch knockouts of the year when he landed a jolting overhand right to the left ear of Howard, who went down in a heap, unconscious, his legs twisted beneath him. Referee Tony Crebs signaled the end of the fight immediately.

It was the second fight for the 6’6” Ajagba, who signed with Top Rank in August 2020, with his new support team of manager James Prince and trainer Kay Koroma. Whether he has bettered his circumstances for those changes (he previously was with Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports, and worked with manager Shelly Finkel and trainer Ronnie Shields) is a matter of conjecture, but the promise – and punching power — he had exhibited beforehand seems to have remained intact.

“It’s my time to shine,” Ajagba said. “I’m coming for the heavyweights to become heavyweight champion of the world.”

He could get his shot, and maybe more quickly now that he is with Top Rank, which promotes the WBC titlist, Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), with a full unification matchup with WBA/IBF/WBO champ Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) close to being finalized.

Nigeria has a history for producing good fighters, the most renowned being the late former middleweight and light heavyweight champion, Dick Tiger, an enshrinee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The best Nigerian heavyweight likely was Ike Ibeabuchi, who might have been good enough to win a world title had it not been for mental and legal issues that landed him in prison. It remains to be seen if Ajagba can match or surpass Ibeabuchi, but he would appear to have a reasonable chance of doing so in comparison to Samuel Peter, Henry Akinwande, David Izonritei and Duncan Dokiwari.

“Efe Ajagba is one of the most gifted young heavyweights I’ve seen in quite some time,” Arum said when he signed him. “He has immense physical tools and a great work ethic. I have the utmost confidence that we’re looking at a future heavyweight champion.”

The two televised lead-ins to Ennis-Lipinets were IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas’ unanimous decision over Jonathan Rodriguez and rising welterweight Eimantas Stanionis’ UD12 over former world title challenger Thomas Dulorme.

Jerwin Ancajas UD12 Jonathan Rodriguez

Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs), who years ago drew the attention of fellow Filipino Manny Pacquiao, retained his title for the ninth time against mandatory challenger Rodriguez (22-2, 16 KOs) of Mexico, who was decked for the first time in his pro career in round eight.

Eimantas Stanionis UD 12 Thomas Dulorme

Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs), from Lithuania, could eventually become a factor in the loaded welterweight division. He certainly didn’t do himself any harm with his win over tough Puerto Rican Dulorme (25-5-1, 16 KOs).

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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The Hauser Report: Notes and Nuggets

Thomas Hauser

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On Saturday, April 10, Ebanie Bridges fought Shannon Courtenay for the vacant WBA world bantamweight championship. The fact that Courtenay-Bridges was a “world championship” fight is an embarrassment.

John Sheppard (who oversees BoxRec.com) reports that one out of every seven women’s fights is for a sanctioning body belt, with “world” championships near the top of the pyramid. Indeed, Sheppard notes that boxing’s world sanctioning bodies have created more women’s “championship” belts than there are active women boxers.

Bridges entered her “world championship” fight with a 5-0 (2 KOs) ring record. But the caliber of her opponents was appalling. Taken in order, they were:

*         Mahiecka Pareno, whose two career wins came against a woman named Jean De Paz (who has never won a fight)

*         Laura Woods, whose only pro fight was against Bridges

*         Kanittha Ninthim, who has lost twelve of thirteen fights

*         Crystol Hoy, who has won one of eleven fights since 2010.

*         Carol Earl, age 45, whose only career victories came against fighters with a composite ring record of 0-16.

So how did Bridges quality for a “world championship” fight? Well, Bridges is – shall we say – voluptuous with long blonde hair and given to wearing bikinis. As Boxing Scene recently reported, “There is more footage and photos found online of Bridges in bikinis than there are of her actual fights.”

One might find further elucidation in statements that Bridges made recently to various outlets:

*         “There’s plenty of girls with more fights than me. The difference? It’s the way I look. Let’s be real. If I wore what everyone else wore, people wouldn’t be interested. You can criticize me as much as you like. But if I looked plain, then you wouldn’t even know this fight was happening. People will tune in to see if this girl wearing lingerie can actually fight or is she just a model? This is an entertainment business. Everyone wears underwear at weigh-ins. Do you want me to wear a paper bag?”

*         “It doesn’t matter what society thinks what you should be doing. If you want to do it, you just f****** do it. I want to stay strong with it. I won’t hide the fact that I’m beautiful. What the f***! I’m going to go over there and going to flex in my lingerie. I’m going to be who I am.”

*         “Hey for people who judge me on first sight, open your mind a little bit and maybe you can see that this girl is pretty f****** real even though she has fake tits.”

Prior to fighting Bridges, Courtenay had compiled a 6-1 (3 KOs) record against mediocre opposition. Shannon isn’t close to being a world-class fighter. But during the pre-fight promotion, she indicated that she took her trade seriously, saying, “I look at people like Katie Taylor that has done everything she could to raise the bar to allow women like me to fight for a living. And I don’t like it being disrespected by not talking about the boxing, talking about what someone’s gonna wear at a weigh-in. People like Katie Taylor didn’t work her backside off to pave the way for women like me and you to be in this position to talk about underwear.”

The fight itself was a pleasant surprise. Bridges was the physically stronger of the two women and the aggressor for most of the bout. Courtenay landed the cleaner punches but didn’t hit hard enough to keep Ebanie off her. A clash of heads in round two bloodied the scalp of each combatant.

Neither woman had a credible defense. A right hand wobbled Bridges in round five and began the process of closing her left eye. By round nine, the skin around it was a bulging purple mess and the eye was completely shut. At that point Ebanie couldn’t see right hands coming, but Shannon lacked the power to put her away. It was a good, honest, low-level club fight.

The judges ruled unanimously for Courtenay by a 98-92, 98-92, 97-94 margin. She deserved the nod but not by that much.

Ebanie Bridges has the right to present herself to the public the way she wants to. But for the WBA to sanction Courtenay-Bridges as a “world championship” fight shows how absurd WBA “world championships” can be and why today’s better women boxers don’t get the respect they deserve.

*     *     *

And now for boxing purists . . .

I correspond regularly by email with a reader named John. Most of our exchanges are about boxing. Some go beyond the sweet science. Among the thoughts he has expressed that are worth sharing are:

*         “No real fighter takes pride in losing with everyone watching. When did that become an act of courage, to make money on losing? That is not a fighter’s mentality. Never has been. That is an entertainer’s mentality, an actor’s job. Sometimes I get so angry to see people who have the chance of a lifetime do just that. If you want to let people use you, go ahead. But then you are no longer a fighter.”

*         “The loss of Hagler so suddenly really has affected people. His reach was deep into the boxing world. He carried himself as a Champion. Many people who are very critical of what boxing has become still look to Hagler as an example of what boxing is. Or should I say was? When did it all become a circus atmosphere in the ring? All this talking that means nothing. All the noise that drowns out the quiet truth of a fighter, men who walk into the ring and do what few men are gifted to do. We had something special. I hope we do not lose sight of that. It takes a lot to get my attention. But the loss of Hagler has stayed with me.”

*         “Things used to start with the idea of building something up in the boxing ring based on certain principles. I give you an honest display of good boxing, and you pull your money out and say you appreciate it.  Now everyone is so wrapped up in getting money. Every step of the way, every person has got to stick their hand in the pocket of the fight fan. It sickens me.”

*         “I do not expect everyone to know from experience what it is like to suffer from hunger. It is not a pleasant thing. Most people think being hungry is having lunch a few hours late. There are people who have grown up and gone to bed hungry many a night. And either you are one of them or you are not.”

Photo credit: Dave Thompson / MATCHROOM

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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Jaron Ennis KOs Sergey Lipinets and Other Results from the Mohegan Sun

David A. Avila

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Jaron-Ennis-KOs-Sergey-Lipinets-and-Other-Results-from-the-Mohegan-Sun

Jaron Ennis KOs Sergey Lipinets and Other Results from the Mohegan Sun

Philly is on the up. Again.

Jaron “Boots” Ennis kicked his stature into another gear with an impressive knockout of former world champion Sergey Lipinets on Saturday.

“It’s on the up now for bigger and better fights,” said Ennis.

Those Philly fighters know how to do it.

Before a small audience Philadelphia’s Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs) showed that he’s ready for the elite level class by dominating the always tough Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs) at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

Is there any other American welter looking for action?

Ennis walked into the arena with all of the physical advantages, but experience can be a tricky matter in the fight game. Lipinets was ready to provide the lesson.

For the first two rounds Ennis used his superior reach, height and speed to keep the former super lightweight world titlist from entering his domain. The Philly fighter wacked at the Russian fighter’s body and head while taking minimal return fire.

Lipinets finally found his way inside and both fighters traded big blows. A wicked right uppercut by Ennis connected and Lipinets bounced a right cross on the Philly fighter. Both absorbed the big blows with little effect.

Still, Ennis was winning all of the rounds and Lipinets realized that maintaining the status quo was not doing him any good. He increased his attack and slipped on Ennis foot and went down. It was incorrectly ruled a knockdown by the referee but it was the least of the Russian fighter’s problems.

Both fighters attacked the body but Lipinets shot one far below the belt and the fight was stopped for a moment. Lipinets was warned. Both went into attack inside and it seemed to be Lipinets best round. He seemed to find his way back into a groove.

“I saw he wasn’t as skilled on the inside as I was so that’s when I started getting a little closer,” Ennis said.

Ennis may have realized that Lipinets had a good round and he wasn’t about to allow another. As the two fighters re-engaged in their war inside, Ennis connected with a right hook to the chin and a left uppercut finished the job. Down went Lipinets and referee Arthur Mercante waved off the fight at 2:11 of the sixth round without a count.

“We worked on a lot of power shots and a lot of speed. That’s what we did,” said Ennis. “Everything is all natural.”

The impressive knockout of Lipinets proved that Ennis has more than enough ability to hang with the best welterweights around.

“Maybe one of the guys will want to fight me. Who knows?”, said Ennis.

Other Bouts

IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs) floored Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriquez (22-2, 16 KOs) and hammered out a win by unanimous decision. But it wasn’t an easy fight. It never is when you put the Philippines versus Mexico.

Ancajas needed the win to keep his name handy for a possible match in the now heated super flyweight division that features Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, and Carlos Cuadras.

A battle between welterweight contenders saw Eimantis Stanionis (13-0) power his way to a unanimous decision win after 12 rounds versus Thomas Dulorme (25-5-1).

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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